Kinds of Kindness‘ is truly the Weirds of Weirdness – Sydney Film Festival Review

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography, both his English language and native tongue films, has slowly but surely etched its way into the mainstream over the last 15 years, seen most recently as cinephiles and general moviegoers alike all relished in the wickedly fun, sexual debauchery of his critically acclaimed award winner from 2023, Poor Things

His abstract stories and unique filmmaking style has opened up film lovers to interesting worlds, morally ambiguous characters, and most excitingly, darkly comedic and shocking events that often have most audience members rethinking whether what they just saw warranted that sick, little chuckle.

Those who’ve loved Yanthimos’ earlier work, such as Dogtooth or Alps, are aware that the filmmaker can go to some pretty dark, confronting places thematically, something that his English language filmography seemingly only dipped the toes in for a while. Until Kinds of Kindness that is.

Kinds of Kindness is a 3 story anthology film in which its primary cast, including Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, Margaret Qualley, and Joe Alwyn, all play a different character in each story.

Interconnected by only a recurring character name, the three stories follow a man who wishes to escape his predetermined path in life, a cop who notices his wife is acting strange after she returns from a near-death experience, and a woman searching for a prophesied individual who is intended to become her cults spiritual guide.

Is this movie weird? Absolutely. Even by Yorgos Lathinmos’ standards.

Co-written with longtime writing partner Efthimis Filippou, Kinds of Kindness exploration in each story mainly revolves around people’s reactions to dreams and abusive power dynamics, showcasing the often worst lengths people will go to prove themselves to someone else. Prophecy, cults, sex, power, love, mental health, and desire are a handful of what is propelled onto the screen through these insane, and often mean spirited tales. It feels like the film has a lot to say, but it’s unfortunately far less interesting and intricate than it really should have been.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 44 minutes, this bulky film spends about 50 minutes with each story, seemingly giving enough time to flesh out a decent narrative in each one. However, the lack of narrative sense in favour of outlandish shock value soon wears quite thin, and the runtime is truly felt by the beginning of the third and final story.

The experience of watching Kinds of Kindness felt like a slow descent into madness. The oddities of the first story landed the occasional chuckle and is a reasonable set up for the madness to come. It is also in fact the most complete narrative of the three stories, but overall feels like an entree for a main course of Lanthimos’ insanity.

Unfortunately, the first story was (in an arguable sense) the best, most entertaining of the three. The insanity and weirdness increases with each shocking moment as the film goes on, but the narrative is a victim of this. There are moments within each story that are either funny, entertainingly disturbing, or fantastic pay-offs to character set-ups, but the sum of the parts don’t work enough to make the entire experience one that works.

The visual aesthetic of Kinds of Kindness is interesting, as it’s not as abstract and unique as some of Lanthimos’ latest films. It does feel like it could be a throwback to the more “fly on the wall” camerawork that a film like Dogtooth showcased, but there is a blandness to both the cinematography and colour palette that doesn’t evoke any excitement on screen.

The true stand out of Kinds of Kindness is the cast, which includes Lanthimos veterans and newcomers alike, but all have the stilted acting style that works so well with the absurdity of the stories told. Stone and Dafoe as always are fascinating presences of screen, and their obvious trust to let all their inhibitions loose for a director like Lanthimos pays off with engaging performances.

However, fresh off of his Best Actor win at the Cannes Film Festival, it’s Jesse Plemons who is the show stealer. The first two tales revolve around his characters specifically, and he is so enigmatic and electric in them. The nuanced differences between each character are astounding, as they couldn’t be two more completely different people, but it’s not just his vocal and physical changes that are great, but his understanding of film’s tone, and his ability to lean into that weirdness is one of the film’s most redeeming factors.

The most interesting thing that will come from Kinds of Kindness is the discourse that will follow the film’s release. After its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, the immediate reactions walking out of the 2000-seat theatre were “loved it” or “hated it”. And if anything, that’s exciting because at least there is still filmmakers out there making bold content that creates interesting conversations, and Yorgos Lanthimos is definitely one of those filmmakers!

Kinds of Kindness is going to be incredibly divisive. For those uninitiated with the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, this isn’t the film to begin the journey on. And for those who love Lanthimos’ abstract filmography, this may work for you. It’s bold and weird, but it doesn’t necessarily work due to it’s broken narrative format and extended runtime.

Kinds of Kindness is playing at the 71st Sydney Film Festival, and will be released in Australian cinemas on July 11.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography, both his English language and native tongue films, has slowly but surely etched its way into the mainstream over the last 15 years, seen most recently as cinephiles and general moviegoers alike all relished in the wickedly fun, sexual...'Kinds of Kindness' is truly the Weirds of Weirdness - Sydney Film Festival Review